Public High School Graduation Rates: Newark City and the State of New Jersey Essay

Public High School Graduation Rates: Newark City and the State of New Jersey Public high school graduation rates can be used as a tool to measure the effectiveness of a particular education program. However, choosing a formula that accurately reflects the strength and weaknesses of a high school has proven to be quite difficult and even controversial. In 2010, the Newark Public School district reported a 55 percent graduation rate among Newark City high schools (Newark Public Schools, pg 4). However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie challenges the NPS’s findings.

Christie argues that, “The Newark City graduation rate is 29 percent”(Christie 4. 29). Both claims, stemming from low Newark City graduation rates, seem to conflict with the 94. 7 percent graduation rate reported by the State of New Jersey in 2010 (NJPS: Fact Sheet). These inconsistencies indicate that the different ways of interpreting graduation rates may be exploited to reflect the interests of a person or group. Because of this, it is important to analyze and interpret the graduation rates reported to ensure that the claims are an accurate representation of the data.New Jersey Governor Christie’s argument that, “For a young man or woman who is entering the ninth grade in Newark this year, they have a 29 percent graduation rate,” may be construed as misleading (Christie 5/1/2012). The argument does not claim that only 29 percent of Newark freshman will graduate; rather, it suggests that only 29 percent of the current freshman class will graduate within four years and also pass the High School Proficiency Assessment (NPS Vision).

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Understandably, Newark Public Schools, representing the Newark City High Schools, responded to the Governor’s claim by interpreting the data themselves. The NPS claimed that, “55 percent of Newark Freshman will graduate in four years” (NPS Vision) While these claims are radically different, they stem from the analysis and interpretation of the same data set. (NJDOE: Graduate 2009-2010). Because the same dataset is used, it is possible to make an unbiased judgment about each claim.Through careful analysis of the raw data, It will become clear whether the reported graduation rates are an accurate or misleading representation of the dataset.

In 2010, there were 2,417 reported graduates from Newark City Public High Schools (NJOE: Graduates 2009-2010). However, from the time they entered as freshman, 402 students in the class of 2010 had dropped-out (NJOE: Dropout 1997-2010). According to Governor Chris Christie and the New Jersey Department of Education have both recognized the “Leaver Rate” as the official high school graduation rate of New Jersey (Christie 6/1/2012).

The Leaver Rate, which was created by the National Center for Education Statistics, allowed districts to report their graduation rate to the state by looking at the reported graduates in the current year out of a cohort of those graduates plus the reported drop out from previous years” (Christie 6/1/2012) Districts were required to report overall numbers to the state each year but were not required to account for individuals. Christie 6/1/2012) When the Leaver Rate formula is calculated using those specific credentials, the graduation rate is 40% [ALLHSPA/(TOTALGRAD+DRPOUTS)] = [1133/(2417+402)] (NJOE: Dropout Data 1997-2010) (NJOE: Graduates Data 1997-2010) (Christie 6/1/2012). This raises the question that: If the leaver rate is used by the New Jersey Department of Education and it is used to calculate the graduation rate, why does Governor Christie claim that the graduation rate is 29 percent? The answer is the formula.While Governor Christie and the NJDOE both report using the leaver rate, the formula being used is actually a modified leaver rate formula. (NPS)The Newark Public School District, in response to Governor Christie’s claim that Newark has graduation rate of only 29 percent, calculated the graduation rate themselves (NPS: Graduation Rate 2010). Some articles also attacked the Governor’s findings, stating: “The Governor fails to consider those who graduate in four years by passing the AHSA, he only includes regular students who pass the HSPA as graduates. It appears that the Governor knowingly omitted an entire group of students in his calculation of Newark’s graduation rates.

(Politifact 6/15/11) The Education Law Center also commented on this matter saying: “Governor Christie has apparently decided that any student who meets state standards by passing the Alternative High School Assessment (AHSA), instead of the regular High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA), should not be counted as a graduate… They disappeared from the graduation totals” (ELC 5/14/2012).The article goes on to describe the purpose and benefits of the AHSA, claiming that: “The AHSA is given to seniors who have not passed one or more parts of the HSPA… The alternative assessment helps to keep struggling students in school and on track to graduate when they might otherwise drop out”(ELC 5/14/2012) From this report it becomes clear how Governor Christie arrived at the conclusion that there is a 29 percent graduation rate in Newark City.Although Governor Christie’s data initially seem misleading, it is actually intended to raise awareness in the community. Governor Christie has been pushing an education reform bill that would eliminate the alternative test, forcing all students to pass an exit exam in order to graduate. (Christie 5/1/2012) Considering this, the graduation rate chosen by Governor Christie seems appropriate. If the Governor intends to increase the difficulty of graduating, only those who pass the HSPA (the state standard) will be considered a graduate.Christie supports his position arguing that a graduation rate should reflect the ability of a school to prepare a student for the world within four years and should, therefore, be tested on that basis. It becomes clear that Governor Christie is not calculating the number of students that will ultimately earn a diploma; he is calculating the number of students who are able to meet the state requirements for a standard diploma within four years of first entering high school (Table 176-NCES).

This is alarming because students who graduate via AHSA are still recognized as legitimate high school graduates by the State of New Jersey.The current statute states: “Any 12th grade student who does not meet said requirements but who has met all the credit, curriculum and attendance requirements shall be eligible for a comprehensive assessment of said proficiencies utilizing techniques and instruments other than standardized tests, which techniques and instruments shall have been approved by the Commissioner of Education as fulfilling State and local graduation requirements” (NJSA 18A:7C-3). The Governor’s calculations included only 1133 students out of the 2417 students received diplomas in Newark in 2010. NJDOE:Grad 2009-2010; Dropout 2006-2010) The enrollment data recorded by the NJ DOE was supplemented by both parties to create the leaver rate cohort (NPS: Graduation Rate 2010).

The Governor, along with the Newark Public School District, reported that the 9th grade enrollment from 2006-2007 was 3867 9th grade students. This is inconsistent from the NJDOE website, which reports that there were 2813 Newark City 9th grade students in 2006-2007. The cohort created by the NPS and Governor Christie appear to have included what they called: “First time 9th grade students”(NPS:Graduation Rate 2010).These students are defined as: “All students who were ever in the 9th grade at any time were considered 9th grade (because any student who transferred in later would be added under the transfer column. ) From this, we can conclude that the sum of students who graduated in 2010 plus those who transferred into the graduating class, subtracted by the number of students who legally transferred out of the district, represent the denominator used to calculate the graduation rate (NPS: Graduation Rate 2010).The Newark City public high schools reported that there were: 3861 students who qualified as first-time 9th graders, 542 students who transferred in, and 536 students that transferred out. These numbers are representative of the current graduating class’s progression from freshman to senior year.

By applying the conditions of the cohort to the enrollment data, we are able to replicate the graduation rates proposed by Governor Christie and the Newark Public School District. The Newark Public School System included graduates that passed the HSPA and AHSA into their calculations. NJDOE: Grad; NPS) Therefore the numerator in their calculations was 2417 graduates while the Governor’s was only 1133 graduates. If calculated to include all Newark City graduates, then the graduation rate becomes 63%, which is higher than what the NPS had originally claimed. It is likely that of the 2417 graduates, 290 graduated in 5 years rather than four. This means that they were likely calculated as dropouts and thus subtracted from the numerator.

If this is taken into consideration, the graduation rate becomes 55%.On the other hand, the NPS has also recognized that only 27% of the students in the class of 2010 had both: graduated in four years and passed the NJ HSPA exam (NPS:Vision). This indicates that Governor Christie’s statistical analysis of the Newark graduate data was not ill-founded. In fact, it suggests that the Governor was lenient in his calculations. However, controversy could have been averted if Governor Christie claimed: “Only 29% percent of Newark city freshman will both graduate AND pass the NJ HSPA exam,” rather than his actual claim that: “The graduation rate of Newark freshman is 29 percent”(Politifact).Ultimately, the graduation rate formula, and the source of the data used in the formula, are equally capable of misrepresenting the reality of the situation.

In addition to the Newark City controversy, the 94. 7 percent graduation rate reported by The State of New Jersey may not be an accurate representation of the data provided (Table 112- Digest of Education Statistics). This is especially concerning because the struggling education system in Newark City is a part of New Jersey, but appears to have no effect on the overall graduation rate.

All things considered, it seems improbable that the overall graduation rate of New Jersey is close to 95 percent. The cause of the shockingly high graduation rate is, once again, due to the formula used to interpret the data. While the NJDOE claims that it uses the “Leaver Rate” to measure the graduation rates, it actually uses a formula that places a large emphasis on the number of relevant dropouts from the time they were freshman (2005-2006) to the time they were seniors (2009-2010).

(Christie 5/1/2012).If New Jersey’s graduation rate is calculated using the leaver formula located on the NJDOE webpage, the graduation rate for would be 77 percent (NJDOE Grad, Dropout). [ALLHSPA/(TOTALGRAD+DROPOUTS)] = [78358/(94979+6386)] However, if we include all regular students who received a diploma (passed HSPA or AHSA), rather than restricting the requirements needed to be included in the formula, the graduation rate jumps to 94 percent. [TOTALGRAD/(TOTALGRAD+DROPOUTS)] [94979/(94979+6386)] However, if New Jersey were to calculate the high school graduation rate using the Averaged Freshman Graduate Rate (AFGR), would there be any noticeable change?According to the NCES: The AFGR is a calculation created by the NCES to provide a common metric for calculating a four year on-time graduation rate.

It provides an estimate of regular high school graduates by dividing the number of graduates with regular diplomas by the estimated size of the freshman class in 2006-2007. The freshman class is estimated by averaging the student enrollment of eighth grade in 2005-2006, ninth grade in 2006-2007, and tenth grade 2007-2008.Averaging these three grades by NCES provides an estimate of the number of first time freshmen in the class of 2006-2007 in order to estimate the on-time graduation rate for 2009-2010” (eddataexpress. ed. gov) Thus, the New Jersey graduation rate, when calculated using the AFGR, is 93 percent.

New Jersey State’s Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate in 2010, when including only those who pass the HSPA or the AHSA as graduates, is 86 percent. However, in order to achieve the 95 percent graduation rate that New Jersey reported to be accurate, there would have to have been 96555 graduates out of the 101637 first-time freshman in 2006-2007.Therefore; it is not possible to conclude that New Jersey State had a 95 percent graduation rate in 2010 because there was only a total of 94979 diplomas awarded in 2010 (NJDOE: Graduate 2009-2010).

This number includes all students who received a diploma by satisfying the New Jersey State graduation requirements. This number also includes those who graduated by passing the AHSA as well as those who were exempt from testing. (NJDOE RC-10) The New Jersey Department of Education website, which displays the 94.

7 percent graduation rate, also contains a disclaimer at the bottom of the page (NJDOE Fact Sheet).It states: “This graduation rate is based on aggregate, self-reported data from school districts. The New Jersey Department of Education is well-aware of the possible inaccuracy in dropout rates and graduation rates that have traditionally been based over the years on districts’ self-reported numbers of their dropouts and graduates.

”(NJDOE fact sheet) In other words, New Jersey recognizes the possibility of bias in the data provided by the districts. From this we can infer that a particular formula is not the only factor that can result in misleading claims.Compromised data may also pose a problem calculating graduation rates. Thus, unrepresentative data samples should also be considered when analyzing the strength of a particular claim. Ultimately, high school graduation rates depend on a number of factors.

Including but not limited to: the quality of the data and the formula chosen. These two factors account for some of the misleading claims that can stem from a particular dataset. From careful analysis, it can be determined that the “actual graduation rates” are subjective.If the “Actual Leaver Rate” is applied and we recognize anyone who receives a diploma as a graduate we can conclude that Newark City has a graduation rate of 86 percent, and the State of New Jersey has a graduation rate of 94 percent.Bibliography:“2005-2010 Dropouts. ” New Jersey Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.

state. nj. us/education/data/drp/drp11/ “2009-2010 Enrollment. ” New Jersey Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www. state.

nj. us/education/data/enr/enr10/ “2009-2010 Graduates. ” New Jersey Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.

state. nj. us/education/data/grd/grd11/ “2010 NCLB Report. New Jersey Department of Education. Web. http://education. state.

nj. us/rc/nclb/nclb. php? c=13;d=3570 “Christie Administration Releases District and School Graduation Rates, Reinforcing Need for New Graduation Requirements.

” 1 May. 2012: New Jersey Department of Education. Web. http://www. state. nj.

us/education/news/2012/0501grad. htm Global Education Advisors. Newark Public Schools: School Placement Decision Support Analysis. Web. www. njspotlight. com/assets/11/0306/2157.

“Governor Christie Distorts Graduation Rate Numbers. ” Education Law Center. May 14, 2012. Web. http://www.

edlawcenter. rg/news/archives/secondary-reform/governor-christie-distorts-graduation-rate-numbers. html “Gov. Chris Christie says graduation rate is 29 percent for new high schoolers in Newark.” Politifact. 6 Jun. 2011: Web.

http://www. politifact. com/new-jersey/statements/2011/jun/15/chris-christie/gov-chris-christie-says-graduation-rate-29-percent/ “Graduation Rate 2010. ” Newark Public Schools. Web. . “Historical Report Card Data- 2010.

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nj. us/rc/2010/index. html “Newark Public Schools: A vision for our Students, our Schools, our Success. Newark Public Schools. Powerpoint.

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nj. us/228610216154624947/site/default. asp “New Jersey Public Schools Fact Sheet. ” New Jersey Department of Education. http://www. state. nj. us/education/data/fact.

htm “NJSA 18A:7C-3. ” New Jersey Legislature. New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, Web. 2012. .

“Remarks By Governor Christie At Harvard Graduate School Of Education On April 29. ” 30 April. 2012: New Jersey Office of the Governor. Web. http://www. state. nj. us/governor/news/news/552011/approved/20110504a.

html “Standards and Assessment for Student Achievement. ” Newark Public Schools. Web.

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